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September 23, 2008 - 4:18pm

News roundup: Neighborhood blues

posted by Philip Anselmo in community, Daily News, neighboorhoods.

Articles today in the Daily News on the Batavia City Council meeting, the fire Monday morning in South Byron and the sentencing of Robert Kirkup yesterday in county court were all featured on The Batavian yesterday. That being said, Joanne Beck put together a fine piece on the Council meeting from last night that includes a little more information than was in our post.

Beck takes as the theme of her article: neighborhood problems, taking her cue from several residents who spoke at the meeting. One resident spoke of the problems caused on some city streets as the result of truck traffic being diverted through residential neighborhoods during road construction. Another spoke of zoning concerns. While a third discussed the problem of absentee landlords and detrimental property conditions. Rather than make this article about these three separate issues, Beck finds the common thread: all three are asking for the same thing: a decent neighborhood.

Our question to that: What does it take to make a decent neighborhood, and when does city government know to step in and help out and when to stand back and let be? We're hoping to take a closer look at that question over the next couple weeks, so look for more on that.


In other news, the town of Batavia hired a third-year engineering student from the Rochester Institute of Technology for $10 an hour to help the town "catch up with project work that includes two water districts and the town's farmland protection plan." Joseph Neth, who lives on Wilkinson Road, will work up to 40 hours per week for 13 weeks for the town as part of "a cooperative effort with area colleges that was started by the town last year."

John Roach
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The sad thing about the sad state of some neighborhoods is the lack of the Slum Lord control law the city almost passed. This local law was ready to be passed when Frank Ferrando and the Republicans had it “tabled”. Now three years later, they still keep it “tabled”. I listened to Councilman Tim Buckley on WBTA expressing his supposed concern over absentee landlords and run down homes, but not once since he was elected did he ask that the Slum Lord law be call back for a vote. Mr. Buckley, if you are really concerned, demand that the tabled local law be voted on. Three years is long enough to hide a vote on this.
Philip Anselmo
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John: It's nice to say "Slum Lord control law," but what is actually contained in such a law. Maybe it was tabled for good reasons. I don't know. Can you provide us with some more information about the law?
Charlie Mallow
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There are state laws that do basically the same thing and the city has started using them this year. All these state laws have two edges to them. One of the purposes of these laws is to make sure that tenants are living in safe homes and their landlords are maintaining them. The problem is when a landlord won’t respond, good tenants are forced out of their homes. People who paid their rent on time and do everything they can to keep a roof over their kids heads find themselves scrambling to provide a home for their families. The city only uses this type of law when tenants are in danger. Another purpose of these types of laws is to help good landlords get drug dealers out of their homes. Landlords face high costs to do the right thing and need help sometimes. The city police and code departments are aware of these laws and will use them when the need arises.
John Roach
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The local law would have had teeth to require land lords to keep up their property. Frank Ferrando and Chris Fix had a meeting with the landlords at City Hall, that was not open to the public. When they came out, one was quoted by the Daily News as saying they got what they wanted. nobody knows what that was. Then the local law was tabled. The public was told the wording needed a bit of work and that the city attorney was going to look it over. Then we were told it was given to some committee. Either way, bring it back up for a up or down vote. You do not "table" something for years. I have spoken at Council meetings asking this to be brought back up, but they refuse. Why are they scared?
Philip Anselmo
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John: I asked for a copy of this proposal from the city. I received "Ordinance #9-2005" from the office of the city clerk. The ordinance is entitled: AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE CODE OF THE CITY OF BATAVIA TO INCLUDE CHAPTER 122 ENTITLED “PUBLIC NUISANCE”. Is this the document to which you refer? If so, I was told it was not "tabled," but that the ordinance "failed." I plan to get up more about this failed ordinance later today or tomorrow.
John Roach
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You would have to ask for the minutes where it "failed". If it 'failed", when did that vote take place? What happened to the one that was "tabled' at a regular City Council meeting? This sounds interesting. Maybe Mr. Mallow or Council member Ferrando, who had to tabeled, can give you an answer. After all this time, and my appearing at Council meetings asking about this, I was never once told it "failed". By the way, what is "failed"? What does that mean ?
Philip Anselmo
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I've got a request out to Frank Ferrando to say why the proposal failed. As for what "failed" means, I assume it means voted down. This law, I am told, "failed at a Council business meeting on December 12, 2005."
John Roach
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I was at the meeting when it was tabled. The reason was so the City Attorney could go over it and clean it up a bit. later, Charlie Mallow told me it had been sent to a committee to be looked at. Earlier this year, again, I spoke at a council meeting asking that this local law be brought back up for a vote. I also asked the the Ethics Board either be filled or done away with. Not one Council member, not one, said the "Public Nuisance" law had failed (it really is a slum lord control law). Funny, Charlie and I talked about this earlier this week and he didn't say it was dead. I just spoke with another council member who does not remember it failing, just tabled. Sounds like a shell game to me.
Charlie Mallow
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This is an easy one. It was tabled a few years ago and never added back to an agenda. Council then sent the issue to the Neighborhood Improvement Committee. The NIC with the help of our police, code enforcement, Rochester’s Neighborhood task force and Rosemary Christian uncovered some state laws that are already in effect. Those state laws are being used by the city right now to handle these problems. There have been at least two instances this year where homes have been closed up do to code issues. There was no need to recreate the wheel with another local law that the city would have to defend in court. I understand exactly where John is coming from and we have talked about neighborhood problems and solutions over and over again over the last few years. John is afraid that the old ways of covering up neighborhood problems will come back. Let me make this real clear. The source of most of our neighborhood issues was a complete lack of enforcement, not the laws we have on the books. There really was no one on the job doing the work for the last two or three years. When an issue came up, they would just pull someone from their regular job duties and send them over to check out an issue. There was no one really assigned to do the work. During last year’s budget we shifted positions around so that there could be someone who could handle enforcement without adding costs on to the taxpayers. We will be bringing on a person shortly and they will be working these issues full time in the near future. This year the city staff worked their tails off to put a large dent in the problem, help is on the way for them and our neighborhoods and we are going to start combating these problems in an efficient, cost effective way.
John Roach
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Then way did the city tell Philip it "failed" at a business meeting on 12/12/08? If "tabled", why not bring back up and pull it? Why leave it undone? Would our local law have more teeth?
Brenda Ranney
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I can name a few dozen people who are or will be unemployed shortly who are more than capable of tooling around the city on a bike with a digital camera snapping pics of unmowed lawns or half painted houses, car up on blocks, rotten porch steps, ... How hard is it to enforce the codes? A few highly publicized cases would go a long way in thinning the herd of lazy renters and homeowners.

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